Metro Vancouver is embarking on an ambitious plan to create a gap-free network of greenways across the region.
It’s a vision that would complete an over-a-century project that started in 1917.
That was the year construction started for the Stanley Park seawall in Vancouver.
By 2050, according to the draft plan, the Lower Mainland would have had a seamless system of off-street, multi-use recreational paths.
These pathways would serve walkers, cyclists, and horse riders where appropriate.
Crisscrossing the region in all directions, the current regional greenway network has about 830 kilometres.
About 480 kilometres or 52 percent are currently operational, according to draft of the Regional Greenways 2050 dated July 2, 2020.
The document notes that of the remaining 42 percent of the network which is planned, about 75 kilometres have been proposed to “fill gaps identified in current plans”.
The draft is included in a report by Jamie Vala, division manager for planning and resource management of regional parks with Metro Vancouver.
Vala’s report is included in the July 15, 2020 agenda of Metro Vancouver’s regional parks committee.
“The draft Regional Greenways 2050 plan identifies current challenges and benefits, provides an updated vision for a gap-free system of regional greenways, and an implementation framework that focuses on actions that can be undertaken in the next five years that will enable measurable progress toward this long term vision,” Vala wrote.
Vala recalled that following the construction of the Stanley Park seawall, the next major milestone in the history of regional greenways was the opening of the BC Parkway for Expo 86.
Online, TransLink describes the BC Parkway is a 26-kilometre, multi-use path that “roughly parallels the Expo SkyTrain Line, connecting Surrey City Centre, New Westminster, South Burnaby, and Vancouver”.
In the report for the regional parks committee, Vala wrote: “Broad support for a network of regional greenways emerged in the following decade when a flurry of greenway planning initiatives undertaken by local municipalities and the regional district culminated in the adoption of the Greater Vancouver Regional Greenway Vision in 1999.”
The draft plan covering the next 30 years notes that around 1.2 million new residents are expected to move to Metro Vancouver by 2050.
According to the document, “maintaining or improving regional liveability will be a significant challenge for regional jurisdictions” because of the population growth.
“Expanding the regional greenway network can play an important role in supporting active living, improving the active transportation network, and protecting and restoring natural areas,” the draft states.
The document also cites initial results from HUB Cycling’s 2019 State of Cycling report.
According to the nonprofit that promotes biking, cycling trips in Metro Vancouver have grown in the last 10 years from 1.7 percent to 2.3 percent of all regional commute trips.
“While the cycling network has increased by 237% since 2010, much of that infrastructure is not comfortable for all people,” according to Metro Vancouver’s draft plan.
Again citing HUB Cycling, the draft plan notes that bicycle infrastructure that is “safe, secure, and accessible for everyone is still fragmented and doesn’t yet fully link key destinations with residential areas”.
“As regional greenways are intended to be off street routes, an updated Regional Greenways Plan can help focus the efforts of regional jurisdictions on filling these important gaps in the recreation and transportation cycling network,” the document states.